Nepal is celebrating Mt Everest Day today in memory of the first summit of the Everest by Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay Sherpa in 1953. Mt Everest Day is celebrated on May 29 every year to commemorate the first two summiteers.
The day, which is also a significant occasion for promotion of Nepal’s mountain tourism, is celebrated with special events.
In 1852, Bengali mathematician Radhanath Sikdar had his Eureka moment when he calculated the height of Peak XV, an icy peak in the Himalayas and the tallest mountain known in the world. The mountain was christened ‘Everest’ as a tribute to Sir George Everest, the Surveyor General of India from 1830 to 1843.
First attempts to scale Mt Everest
Mt. Everest towers 29,029 ft above sea level and is the highest point on Earth. In 1922, the British became the first to attempt to scale the peak, marking the first attempt to find a way up. As many as six British expeditions tried to get to the top thereafter but it was the Swiss, under Edouard Wyss-Dunant who came the closest, in 1952. The Swiss expedition was pushed back by bad weather, a heartbreaking 250m from the summit.
The following year, in 1953, another British expedition would attempt to scale Mt Everest. This 10-member crew had a staff with a strength of 350 porters and 20 sherpas assisting them along the way. The party reached Thyangboche by 27 April where they underwent rigorous training to get acclimatised to the altitude.
Enter Norgay and Hillary
Of the 10 climbers, two would go on to become close friends. Tenzing Norgay, of Tibetan-Nepali descent, had dreamt of being the first one to climb this mountain. As a child, he practised by carrying rocks in his backpack up and down the base of the Mt Everest. Before 1953, he had been part of six summit attempts. Edmund Hillary was born in New Zealand, which was then a British colony. He was an apiarist who would keep bees in the summer, and climb mountains in winter.
The Everest summit attempt
From the 1953 British expedition, Tom Bourdillon and Charles Evans were the ones chosen for the first of the three attempts. But the two had to turn back from South Summit, approximately 300ft from the top, after their oxygen equipment failed.
The team then sent its second mission. Norgay and Hillary reached the South Summit by 9am. But their problems were far from over: they encountered a ridge that took a slight dip before rising abruptly in a rocky spur. It was Hillary who scraped at the snow, and carved out a path that allowed them to make the final ascent. That spot today is known as the Hillary Step. Finally, at 11:30am on May 29, Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary became the first men to scale Mt Everest. As a debt of their gratitude, the sherpa laid down some sweets while Hillary laid a cross on the powder white snow of the summit. Hillary took a photograph of his partner, though, for some reason, he refused one of himself. From : cntraveller.in/ Image source : Getty Image